“And They Were Astonished”

by Tom Wacaster

Near the close of His earthly ministry our Lord made one final journey to Galilee. His first stop on that tour was in Nazareth, the city where He grew up. Matthew’s record of this visit to Nazareth appears in 13:54-58. Upon entering into the city it is said that our Lord “taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished” (13:54). Should that surprise us? Do you recall that moment recorded by John when the officers were sent by the Pharisees and chief priests to arrest Jesus, and those men returned and declared, “Never man so spake” (John 7:46). The opinion of those officers was not borne out of hearsay, or conjecture, or mere guess. They heard Jesus for themselves, and from that experience they boldly declared that there was no one who ever spoke as did Jesus. No one!

Over the centuries there have been great orators who have gained the respect of those who heard them. Among those are Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, orator and writer. He is ranked #18 on the list of the most enlightened leaders in world history. Marcus Cicero, Roman philosopher, politician, and lawyer. According to one writer, “the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that a of any other prose writer in language.” Other great orators might include men like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Ronald Reagan, known as “the great communicator.” One of the most well-known statesmen of the closing years of the 1800’s and early 1900’s was William Jennings Bryan, well known Senator, author, and candidate for the Presidency. Time and space would fail us if we were to tell of Pericles, Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, and others. No doubt the officers who came to arrest Jesus on that occasion were familiar with the famous orators of their age, and likely had studied those of the past who had influenced Roman and Jewish thinking alike. Now, take the lump sum of all of the famous orators of any and every age. Cull from their speeches and writings the best of the best, put it in a volume of philosophy and human wisdom and advice, and it would pale in comparison to the wisdom and communication ability of our Lord. Truly, “Never man so spake”!

One of best known tributes to our Lord was that offered by Napoleon Bonaparte: “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but upon what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”

Albert Einstein is credited with having said this about Jesus: “No man can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus.”

Here is an amazing quote from Vincent van Gogh:

It is a very good thing that you read the Bible. The Bible is Christ, for the Old Testament leads up to this culminating point. Christ alone has affirmed as a principal certainty, eternal life, the infinity of time, the nothingness of death, the necessity and the raison d’être of serenity and devotion. He lived serenely, as a greater artist than all other artists, despising marble and clay as well as color, working in living flesh. That is to say, this matchless artist made neither statues nor pictures nor books; he loudly proclaimed that he made living men, immortals.”

Sholem Asch, a Jewish author wrote concerning Jesus:

Everything he ever said or did has value for us today and that is something you can say of no other man, dead or alive. There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon. You either accept Jesus or reject him.

Among my favorite is this tribute by Philip Schaff:

Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

If the student desires a good sampling of the amazing wisdom of Jesus, let him spend time meditating on the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. In my notes on chapter five I provided you with a beautiful quote from John T. Fisher. It bears repeating here:

If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene – if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably by comparison.

What Fisher had to say about the Sermon on the Mount could be said about every word that ever came out of the mouth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spoke with wisdom, for He is the very embodiment of heavenly Wisdom. Let us listen, respect, and obey His words that we might have the life He has promised to the faithful.

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